Elite sport in Australia is seen as an important vehicle to share positive social messages. Across all sports, whether amateur or professional, leagues and associations use themed rounds to promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Done well, themed rounds can have a significant impact on social discourse and the way fans understand a social issue.

It has been a long time since multicultural themed rounds were a fixture, but two leading Melbourne sporting franchises, Melbourne United and Melbourne Victory, are instilling them as a feature event on their annual calendar. Both clubs represent global sports and are aligning the events with overall club strategy, as outlined by Melbourne United CEO Nick Truelson who said “With inclusion being one of our 3 club values, our aim of the event is to showcase multiculturalism and bring to life stories of our city and playing group.”

Australia prides itself on being a multicultural society. With communities from across the globe, a multicultural round provides an opportunity to celebrate diversity and recognise the contributions made to Australian sport. Truelson commented:

“With Melbourne being the multicultural capital of Australia and with our playing group also being so multicultural we wanted to play our role to make a difference in the community.”

Beyond celebration, a multicultural round can also promote education and learning. Through targeted communication strategies, activities can help to increase awareness and understanding of different cultures, which can in turn help to reduce prejudice and discrimination. Steve Johnston, Community Partnerships and Engagement Manager at Melbourne Victory, says “It is a great opportunity to not only inform our fan base but also delve deeper into education with our staff and fan base”.

A multicultural themed round is an opportunity for different cultures to come together and showcase their talents, traditions, and customs. Events like this help to promote social cohesion and respect among different communities. “Celebrating all cultures, not just one has helped us, as a new Club, break down some traditional ethnic barriers in the sport”, Johnston said on the success Melbourne Victory has seen.

Success can come in many forms, but Truelson sees the buy-in from local community and the players as a big win. “We have been able to create a partnership with City of Melbourne to create a festival outside to provide a welcoming environment,” he said. ”Our playing group is so proud of what we do in this round that when the team last won the NBL championship in 20/21, the team decided to wear the multicultural jersey the whole way through the finals as a celebration”.

Partnerships were a key element in developing Melbourne Victory’s multicultural round. Johnston highlighted that the event initially started in 2009 with support from Football Australia, the Victorian Multicultural Commission and Monash University on the back of a blockbuster game against big rivals Sydney FC. “The concept was created by the club, to acknowledge and celebrate the great contribution of our multicultural community to Victoria and to the growth of Victorian football,” he said. The Club has now built citizenship ceremonies into the event with over 800 people gaining Australian citizenship at ceremonies conducted by Melbourne Victory FC from 2012 to 2023. Melbourne United are eager to use their annual event to build partnerships. “We would like to grow the game day festival and really make it a very special day on the calendar for us and our partners to celebrate multiculturalism” Truelson added.

While the space may look crowded, sports can use themed rounds to break down barriers and build bridges between different communities. By promoting multiculturalism, elite sports clubs can improve their stakeholders’ understanding of diverse cultures, build connections to new and emerging communities and encourage more participation in their sports.

Contact us if you’d like to learn more about multicultural themed rounds for your sport.